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Sunday, January 3, 2021

Wrens, Woodpeckers and Thrushes in Migration featuring Winter Wren

[Lake St. Clair Metropark. Fall 2020]

While warblers and shorebirds generally steal the show when it comes to migration, there is nevertheless more to a life in birding than just these avian superstars. We turn our attention, therefore, to a different mix of migrant (and a few resident) species that are familiar but no less extraordinary:
  • Winter, Marsh and House Wren
  • Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Hermit and Swainson's Thrush
  • Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallow
  • Brown Thrasher and Grey Catbird
  • Red-bellied, Downy, Northern Flicker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Eastern Phoebe
  • White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Red-eyed and Warbling Vireo
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
We start with the wrens. Winter Wren is seen at Lake St. Clair in migration. It's never conspicuous and generally found foraging on the ground:

Pacific Wren was recently split from Winter Wren. The latter is more spotted and less brown.

Smaller than the House Wren, the short, cocked tail is a good identification marker. 

Marsh Wren can be found across the park in Fall:

In the Spring time, these energetic songbirds liven up the marsh with their buzzy songs.

House Wren is a breeder at Metro and, granted its charisma falls short of the Winter Wren, yet it delights with its song.

From the large family of 40+ wrens found in the US, we move to the Kinglets:

The kinglets are represented in the US with just two species: the Golden-crowned and the Ruby-crowned:

The Ruby-crowned is a drab olive, neckless bird with a prominent yet asymmetric eyering.

In the Eastern US, thrushes are well represented with the common migrants being Hermit Thrush:

.. .and Swainson's Thrush:

Among the mimids, Brown Thrasher is generally heard before it's seen:

Gray Catbird (above) is not as shy as the Thrasher.

One family of birds not easily photographed are the swallows -- constantly in fast flight, these highly specialized birds can sometimes be seen in sandy areas.
Barn Swallow:

Purple Martin:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow:

While they may fascinate on the wing, these birds are clearly out of their element on the ground.

Red-bellied Woodpecker is poorly named:

It is a resident species at this metropark:

Downy is also a resident:

Northern Flicker is an ant specialist:

Finally, a juvie Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:

Moving now to our Flycatchers:

Eastern Phoebe is the first flycatcher to arrive and the last to leave at this venue.

Eastern Wood-Pewee can be quite vocal in the Fall and was observed making short sallies for insects.

Eastern Kingbird is a charismatic tyrant flycatcher:

White-breasted Nuthatch is a resident:

Red-breasted was seen passing through:

All the vireos seen here (excepting one) are migrants:

Unlike Red-eyed Vireo above, Warbling Vireo is a nester at this venue:

We close out with the only hummer found in the Eastern US:

Of the many thousands of visitors at Lake St. Clair Metropark, scarcely a minority engage in the quiet study of its natural bounty. Among the hordes of boisterous recreationists and ardent dog walkers, who shall show any concern for the birds in perilous passage? Yet, to the intrepid birder, the avian presence of the migrants in passage marks the rhythm of the seasons and a miracle of nature as wrens, vireos, thrushes and more navigate many thousands of miles without the crutch of technology. What could be more inspiring?